Articles Posted in Truck Accidents

A tractor-trailer crash on I-30 east of Dallas tragically took the life of two women, one from Fort Worth and another from Dallas several weeks ago. An 18-wheeler driver behind them rear-ended a line of vehicles and set off the horrific collision pictured here.

However this barely got an inch or two in our local DFW newspapers. That’s probably because it was just the latest in a long line of fatal big-rig crashes that seem routine.

In 2015 commercial vehicles were involved in more than 34,000 accidents in Texas. The results were devastating: 601 people died and 17,000 were injured.

That crash was very similar to a case I am involved in where an 18-wheeler crashed into my client’s SUV and caused a massive chain reaction on Interstate 35 in Fort Worth last year. My client was seriously injured and her boyfriend died in front of her. A photo from that scene appears below.

You might assume that these are easy cases to win in court, but this is not always true. Here’s why. Continue reading

Tractor-trailer carriers are rated by the federal government and their safety records are important evidence for personal injury lawyers when their big rigs crash into other vehicles and cause personal injuries and sometimes deaths.

However a new FMCSA rule changes what evidence will be available to prosecute tractor-trailer companies. Giant companies like J.B. Hunt and Federal Express can now ask the FMCSA to remove crashes from their histories to improve their safety reputation at trial. Continue reading

After an 18 wheeler crash, damages for medical bills, lost wages, disfigurement, pain, and other items can be enormous. Who pays for that? How much is available? What happens if there is not enough insurance to pay all injured people?

Minimum insurance levels required

Federal law has mandated that commercial vehicles which drive from state to state have insurance since the trucking industry began back in 1935.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration enforces the law that if the vehicle that drives interstate has a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,001 or more pounds, it is required to have $750,000 available. Further, if the truck is carrying hazardous materials, up to five million dollars is required.

Buses and other vehicles that carry 15 passengers or less must have at least one million dollars in coverage; those that carry more than 16 people have to have at least five million dollars in coverage available.

Often companies have multiple policies or higher limits. Many have high deductibles and self-retention amounts.

Note that the required minimum limit of $750,000 has not been increased since the Motor Carrier Act of 1980 was enacted, while medical bills that cost that amount 36 years ago now cost $4.2 million adjusted for inflation. Clearly the minimum figures are inadequate to protect the public.

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I spent several days in Nashville last week learning the latest laws and procedures regarding 18 wheel and other commercial truck crash cases.

The first annual symposium of the Academy of Truck Accident Attorney featured some of the top injury attorneys in the country. Some of the topics were

  • Accident investigation and reconstruction

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has just released a report that shows the dangers of distraction and sleepiness on our roads.

More than one fourth of all 18-wheeler accidents are caused by driver inattention or fatigue. This is just what’s reported. Based on what I’ve seen as a personal injury lawyer, I believe the number is much higher.

I am filing suit on behalf of a woman who was seriously injured when a distracted tractor trailer driver shown here crashed into her vehicle and killed her boyfriend as they were at a complete stop on Interstate 35 in Fort Worth.

Several years ago, I represented the family of a young tow truck operator who was tragically killed when an 18 wheeler driver fell asleep at the wheel and veered off of I-35 north of Dallas-Fort Worth and crashed into another tractor trailer he was underneath.

In June, three people were killed on I-30 in Royse City in East Texas when a tractor-trailer veered into the path of another tractor-trailer. The eastbound travelling rig dragged a small car with it as it jumped the center median into oncoming traffic. The driver fell asleep at the wheel.

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An employer can’t claim it didn’t know about driver’s past safety violations

Employers cannot blindly hire truckers without reviewing their work history and safety record.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has detailed regulations to help prevent unqualified drivers from being hired.  This minimizes the possibility that a driver jumps from job to job to hide his history of crashes, safety violations, drug and alcohol use,  medical issues, or other problems that create dangerous driving conditions.

As an injury lawyer, I see companies failing to follow FMCSA regulations.

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Heavy Machinery a Danger on Texas Highways 

A cement truck killed the driver of a small car in a tragic accident on Tuesday. The fatal accident occurred on CR 210 in Anna, a tiny town north of McKinney. The cement mixer was travelling eastbound when the driver drifted off the shoulder of the highway. He over corrected and crossed the median into the westbound lane, slamming into the car and pinning it against a tree. 

The motorist died at the scene. Of course, the driver of the cement mixer sustained no injuries. 

This terrible collision highlights the dangers of sharing the road with heavy equipment. Construction trucks weigh substantially more and are much larger than cars and are built to withstand rough terrain. These qualities make them prefect for the conditions on a construction site, but extremely dangerous on the road.

Laws of Physics Not On Driver’s Side in an Accident With One

An empty mixer generally weighs about 26,000 lbs. When its mixer is filled, that number increases significantly. Concrete weighs 3,000 to 4,000 lbs. per cubic yard for light to normal varieties. A full mixer might contain about 10 cubic yards of concrete, packing on 40,000 additional pounds to the mixer for a total weight of 66,000 lbs.

At 4,000 pounds, an average sedan weighs about one-sixteenth the weight of a mixer. 

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Why are criminal charges so rare when drivers and trucking companies break the law?

As an early Christmas present to Tracy Morgan, the Wal-Mart driver who severely injured the comedian and killed his close friend was indicted yesterday. 

The driver was severely sleep-deprived and speeding at the time of the June 7, 2014 crash. Before beginning his long-haul shift, Kevin Roper drove 700 miles from his home in Georgia to report to a Delaware Wal-Mart. 

Roper raced along the NJ highway at 65 mph in a 45 mph zone moments before the crash. He also failed to heed multiple warnings about construction lane closures and resulting slow moving traffic ahead. Having been awake for 28 hours, Roper could not react in time to avoid hitting Morgan’s limousine. 

The devastating 18-wheeler accident did not result from a mistake, bad conditions or any other unavoidable cause. The collision was entirely preventable, except for the criminal conduct of the driver and his employer.

That a driver faces criminal consequences is very rare. People are injured and killed daily by negligent truck drivers who ignore speeding, distracted driving and hours of service laws, but drivers typically get a light reprimand and the company a small fine. Drivers and trucking corporations face no real consequences when the victims are less famous than the well-regarded Tracy Morgan.

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Provisions Improve Road, Auto and Truck Safety, But There Are Major Problems With New Law

The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act just passed the U.S. House and Senate and now goes to the president for his signature. The law adds $305 billion of funding into roads, bridges, rail, trucking and other badly needed transit projects and safety measures over the next five years. But the Obama administration had hoped for at least $400 million.

The new law includes measures that will increase auto and roadway safety and hold automakers accountable when they violate the law. This is long overdue considering the horrific conduct of GM, Takata and Trinity Industries, among many other corporations that have willingly injured motorists with their defective vehicles, seat belts and guard rails, then covered up evidence of their malfeasance. 

Last year, when a truck driver killed four North Central Texas College softball players in a horrific traffic collision, I was appalled to hear the driver’s excuse. He claimed that he was distracted by something in the cabin. Why would that cause him to drive across the highway and cross over the median into oncoming traffic?

The real reason just came to light. Th truth is what you might have expected, but with this wrinkle: Russell Staley was high on synthetic drugs when he crashed into the NCTC bus.

Synthetic Drugs Put the Public at Serious Risk

For those who do not know what synthetic drugs are, they are chemicals that can be smoked or vaporized to cause elevated mood, altered perception and psychosis. Often the synthetic cannabinoids, a/k/a “fake marijuana” and “K2” also cause confusion, extreme anxiety, paranoia and hallucinations.

Until recently, synthetic drugs were openly sold at gas stations and convenience stores. The Texas Poison Center reported 464 cases of synthetic marijuana exposure in 2013 and that number increased by almost 60 percent to 782 in 2014. So far this year, poison centers nationwide have seen a fourfold increase in reported exposure, in part due to highly dangerous batches in Texas and six other states. 

Texas is behind only Mississippi and New York in numbers of K2-exposure cases reported to the poison control center. 

Make no bones about it, this is an extremely dangerous drug. And that a commercial truck driver would attempt to operate a tractor-trailer on this substance is nothing short of shocking.

Fortunately, a Texas statute banning K2 that took effect in September. Unfortunately, manufacturers change the chemical compounds regularly in order to skirt legislation. This makes the drugs harder to detect and harder to regulate.

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